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Vernon Aquatic Centre no longer up to snuff

Media members were invited to a tour of the aging facility on Tuesday

The City of Vernon is highlighting the challenges facing the Vernon Aquatic Centre.

Recreation services director Doug Ross offered media members a tour Tuesday of the aging facility, which was originally constructed in 1965 and opened in May 1966. Renovations were done in 1993, bringing to life the current configuration of a leisure pool and an eight-lane lap pool.

On Oct. 15, in conjunction with the municipal election, voters will decide whether to borrow $121 million for the Active Living Centre project, which would be located at the undeveloped Kin Racetrack Park. The project would feature a 50 metre pool, a leisure pool, two hot tubs, a sauna and a steam room, as well as a double gymnasium with multiple sport courts, an 80-station fitness centre and a synthetic walking/running track.

Whether or not the Active Living Centre is approved by referendum, the existing aquatic centre will still be in use until at least 2026, as it will take at least four years to draw up the designs, put out requests for proposals and undergo a construction period that could take at least two years.

Ross said there are three main challenges that the aquatic centre faces. The first is aging infrastructure.

The aquatic centre has a mix of infrastructure from every decade since the 1960s, including modern equipment such as the new UV disinfection system that was installed this year.

The second challenge is capacity. Recreation services puts a priority on Learn to Swim programs, and when these programs open for registration, classes are often at or near capacity within a day or two, and many have full wait lists. Because more of the aquatic centre’s pool time is dedicated to Learn to Swim programs, the ability to offer public swimming time is limited. The Active Living Centre would address this problem, as the 50 metre pool would feature two bulkheads that could divide the pool into sections at the press of a button.

According to Ross, more than 1,200 kids are currently registered in swimming lessons, and another 660 are on a wait list.

The third challenge is that the current facility simply falls short of current user expectations. Nearly 30 years after extensive renovations were done, the centre no longer meets the needs of today’s users. For example, the change rooms, sauna and steam room are too small and there are accessibility issues for people with disabilities.

As time goes on, the cost of maintaining the aquatic centre has gone up, and the centre’s annual shutdown has increased in time, from two weeks in years past to six weeks this year.

“In the last two years we’ve invested over $1 million in the facility to keep it up and running,” Ross said, adding that another $500,000 was put into the facility in the five to 10 years prior.

A number of upgrades were made during this year’s annual shutdown which ended last week, including sand blasting and repainting the lap and leisure pools and overhauling the sauna. However, the water slide remains closed due to corrosion of its support structure.

If voters decide in favour of the Active Living Centre, the city would discuss the future of the aquatic centre with the District of Coldstream and Electoral Areas B and C. However, as recommended by the Active Living Centre feasibility study, it would likely be decommissioned.

If not approved by the referendum, Ross said “we’ll continue to operate this facility the best that we can.” The aquatic centre would remain in its current size and configuration and would not be able to accommodate the additional swimming programming that the Active Living Centre would be able to handle.

READ MORE: Vernon’s proposed Active Living Centre discussed with public at open house

READ MORE: Vernon active living centre tax impact clarified

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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